Monday, September 27, 2004

Jenison Tax Revolt

On saturday, the residents of Jenison rejected a request by their school district for a "recreation millage" tax increase.

Two things should be noted about this vote. First, typical to the tax-raising crowd that wants to control the outcome of their requests, the vote was held on an odd election date - a Saturday. Usually they think that having elections on odd dates makes it unlikely that the average voter will turn out, so they notify those who are "friendly" to their tax increase about the election date, boosting the "yes" vote and potentially diminishing the automatic "no" voters. Thankfully, this practice has been stopped by last year's election consolidation laws, which will limit all such future tax increase requests to four specific election days a year.

Second, this is a trend by school districts to try and skirt Proposal A. That law stopped local school districts from raising money via property tax for operating expenses. Instead, funding for schools comes from the state via the sales tax, which we all pay. The recreation millage is a loophole in Proposal A which allows school districts to raise additional operating money by calling it "recreation" money.

As usual, the school district leaders are complaining that they don't have enough money to operate and that Lansing doesn't pay enough to operate the schools. Nevermind that these are the same school leaders who consent year after year to the teachers union's demands that they (the school district) continue to pay for the union-owned health insurance scheme, which is far more expensive than standard health insurance. Some estimates show that $400 million a year could be saved by Michigan school districts if health care were simply bid out, instead of being monopolized by the union's MESSA health care plan.

When was the last time we heard charter schools whining about budgets and funding? They don't have the option of raising taxes to build buildings, and they're doing just fine with what they've got.

But the stunning part is that the residents rejected the tax increase. We're constantly told by public school district leaders that they need more money. That line isn't working any more. Perhaps school districts should examine the expenses side of their budget, instead of always attacking the revenue side.

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